This morning in line at the bakery I got to listen to an out-of-town visitor talking on the phone to someone he loves. I know about the love because he said “I love you” before he hung up, though I have done that and not meant it. Even recently, after a business call that ended in rejection. I was the one who was rejected so it wasn’t one of those, “I’m sorry….I loooove you…” consolation things I’ve done in the past. Being too alone with my brain for too long has just made me weird. Sometimes I think I actually do love more lately, I mean if not, what’s the point of any of this? So I even love people who don’t want me because what does one have to do with the other? Early in the pandemic my sister said goodbye as: “well *I* still love you” which still cracks me up. Who? stopped? loving? me? What aren’t you telling me?!!
But back to the bakery line guy, who I do not love, who loudly said: “it’s just SO Brooklyn that I am waiting in a long line for a bakery!”
First, I hate “Brooklyn” as a facile adjective for something else (hipster, entitled, artisanal, avocado toast) because it erases the many different types of people who are and were Brooklyn before the branding. I accept that I’m who he meant, fire fire gentrifier, fancy as fuck in my daisy shirt and khaki shorts, because I had to actually get dressed today to walk cousin’s dog. Though am I a yuppie if I’m broke and no longer young or professional…..who am I now when I was self- and outwardly- defined by my work, my city, my people who I cannot see anymore? Who is anyone anymore?
Second, I have lived in Brooklyn 22 years I have never once waited in a bakery line. (Peter Pan is a donut shop.) I figured out how to avoid most NY lines through strategy, connections, denial of self, but mostly by just not giving enough of a fuck to think anything was worth waiting for when there’s another good option a block away. (That is people’s complaint about dating in NYC, too. The rest of you, picking are slim and you’re stuck with one another. Here, endless options!) The pandemic created lines and crowds I had to accept, to get groceries, to do laundry, to get tested, to get fresh air. No more secret downtimes when other people were working to do things, no going out after dark because streets too empty for me, no bars so no magic night hours between when people go into and then come out of the bars. Those hours were always my favorite, back when I was one of the people inside the bars, and then when I was one of the people wandering the streets and avoiding the people in bars.
Today I was so attracted to the line, happy to join the people in it. I was a joiner. I am a joiner. I was happy when La Bicyclette Bakery reopened for awhile last month after been closed for most of the shutdown, and the other day I saw the sign saying they’d be back again this week. This line seemed much less the old bougie brunch crowd and more neighbors supporting neighbors. Everyone is so grateful we have people like them making a go of it, being safe, figuring out solutions, employing people, saving us from 5 hours of bread making you all seem to love so much. Since I have the time, I will wait 20 minutes to get a $2 baguette to support this small local business a few blocks away from the Whole Foods monsters that continue to profit from pandemic while putting nothing back into the local community via taxes or outreach or donations or anything.
I know I started out talking about how loving I have become, but with more social interactions that is becoming more difficult, and it was hard to have love for a guy who comes here (undoubtedly from one of the quarantine states, without quarantining), but I always try to recognize that these jerks are my teachers. I felt like he was making fun of us for being Brooklyn, when I know we’re the only city and state in this whole country that took the virus seriously, shut down as soon as we could, as much as we could, to protect the most vulnerable among us, at great expense to ourselves and maybe the survival of the whole city, and even so still lost over 20, 000 of us, and affected countless numbers with still unknown future health issues, mostly in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx. We did this not because it was hip or easy or fun or because we liberals love to follow government orders (huh?), but because it was the right thing to do. Mutual aid groups popped up everywhere because city services were sapped or reeking of mismanagement and corruption and federal government abandoned us. North Brooklyn Angels brought food to hospital workers because cafeterias and restaurants closed. Vinny’s pizza took donations to deliver to essential workers. Crowdsourcing flourished. It is all still flourishing. People are cleaning the parks and picking up garbage while the city tries to remember how to govern, having given up the notion with the rest of the country that government is to serve the people, not for political or economic gain by any individual. I’m getting involved in local government at a very low level and it’s just amazing to me what people are doing for one another in the name of public service.
We have met and will meet in the streets to protest and to mourn and to make things better. We look out for one another. We choose to live in a place where we can keep our carbon footprint low, travel by subway or walk or bike, and mix with all kinds of people to keep our minds and hearts open, alive, growing. We wait in lines with one another even without talking, because we love one another and we just need to be present with others, sharing this experience. Maybe sometimes two dogs will stop and say hi to one another and that, plus a hot baguette, will be a highlight of an otherwise very difficult or lonely day. We give a fuck. We are so Brooklyn.